Make a plan, pick a day and quit

Every November the American Cancer Society promotes the "Great American Smoke out." Its purpose is to encourage tobacco users to make a plan, pick a day and quit. We all know there are a million and five reasons to quit using tobacco. The education organizations like the American Cancer Society providers for free is almost overwhelming!

It is no secret that tobacco use affects the heart, lungs, throat, skin etc. - but did you know, according to the American Cancer Society, that smoking and chewing tobacco can increase your risk for bladder and cervical cancer as well? 5 years of quitting tobacco the risk for these cancers decreases to that of a non tobacco user. There is a multitude of immediate benefits of quitting as well, all of which are located on the American Cancer Society's webpage

From a dental standpoint, smoking and chewing tobacco causes staining of the teeth, bad breath, and gum disease (which can cause tooth loss) not to mention it can lead to mouth and/or throat cancer. Tobacco can even threaten current dental treatment you are undergoing or have already completed. The instability tobacco use causes to gum tissue can make you more at risk of losing restoratives on teeth. If you needed more reason than this, quit because you deserve a life without addiction. My office will always offer the incentive of "Quit smoking for 6 months and get free bleach trays." As this year comes to an end, make it your resolution to make a plan, pick a day and quit for good!

Understanding Dental Insurance

Now that the end of the year is approaching a lot of you are going through plan after plan your employer has selected for your medical, dental and vision plans. I hope this will help in understanding dental insurance better and will assist in helping you choose the correct plan for you. One of the largest misconceptions about dental insurance is that it works hand in hand with your medical insurance - it does not. Dental insurance is a completely different animal. The way I can best describe it to a patient is to think of it strictly as a discount - no more, no less. Dental coverage is decided by how much your employer pays into the plan, it has nothing to do with what your dentist would recognize as the best possible treatment. It is a contract between your employer and the insurance company and they are deciding what amounts your plan pays and what is covered. You as an employee have every right to let your employer know if your coverage is not adequate for your health needs.

So many of my patients will tend to select the treatment option that is covered by their dental insurance and not what is recommended. I feel I must point out that your health is the most important thing. As many of you know I tend to recommend to my patients what I would to my own mother or father to keep their mouths healthy; it is not my practice to overextend your wallets. Many dental offices, including mine, try to help take all the guess work out of dental insurance. We will call and get full breakdowns from each company to get an overview of what is covered and what is not. We will file all of your claims so you do not have to mess with the paperwork and follow up ultimately saving you a lot of time and money. Dental insurance is just one part of staying healthy. If you ever have any questions on how your insurance works - we will be more than happy to take the time to explain all of the ins and outs. We will help you understand what your insurance will cover and how to plan accordingly. Remember, the least expensive option is not always the best option. This goes for dental, medical or vision. Understand your insurance; it will make your life a lot easier when it comes to deciding what is best for you.

What you eat matters

Remember in the 1980's when fitness became all the rage? We tend to go in cycles of what we as a group consider popular or trendy. The fitness craze is back, and it is back with a vengeance. Everywhere I turn there are marathons, 5k's, fun runs, cross fit, hot yoga, Barre3 - I could go on and on. The cycle is the same with our diets; juicing, the raw food movement, the sudden popularity of kale and Brussels sprouts, 6 small meals a day, low carb, no carb, paleo diets. Regardless of trend the bottom line is always the same: What you eat matters. I fully embrace a healthy lifestyle, and as a dentist I am more aware of what I put into my mouth because I know the effects certain foods have on my oral health. I understand, and I want all of you to understand that your mouth is a huge component in your overall health.

Just to cover all the angles I will go ahead and state the obvious; sugar, sticky candy, lollipops, hard breads, and soda can be damaging to your teeth. Did you know that items such as fruits, certain coffee and tea, alcohol, sports drinks and flavored waters, nuts, even ice can lead to an unhealthy mouth? Fruits that are high in citric acid can cause erosion and irritate your gum tissue, causing sores. Coffee and tea, when you add all the good stuff can cause tooth decay; alcohol promotes dehydration and dry mouth which causes tooth decay as well. What you eat matters more than you know. While we all strive to live a little healthier - body, mind, soul and mouth, avoid excessive snacking. Not only is it dangerous to your waistline it is dangerous to your teeth as well - the more you snack the more food is collected in the little tiny crevices and remain hidden until your next brushing. When snacking, choose cheese, almonds, leafy greens, eggs, etc. Try to avoid sugar, even "sugar free" snacks. Most importantly, remember to brush and floss regularly - and come see me for your preventative needs.

Baby teeth, are they really THAT important????

There are a number of parents out there that think; they are just my kid's baby teeth, are they real THAT important???? I think we assume that since teeth aren't visible they aren't exposed to the same thing that adult teeth are. 20 baby teeth are already formed in the jaw at the time of birth and typically erupt before babies are 6 months old. When I see decay on baby teeth and I discuss those findings with Mom or Dad - you wouldn't believe how many of them say they would rather wait until their baby teeth fall out. Baby teeth are just as important as adult teeth. Teaching your children about good oral hygiene early can lead to healthy mouth habits that will preserve their smile for the rest of their lives. We are only given two sets of teeth - and once the permanent ones are gone, they are gone for good. The American Dental Association recommends that parents take children to the dentist no later than their first birthday and then at intervals recommended by their dentist.

Kid's mouths go through so much. First they have to deal with the awkward gaps that can form when teeth are missing. If a baby tooth comes out too soon, it can cause problems for the adult teeth trying to grow in. Drifting, spacing, crowding and crooked teeth can be a result of losing teeth before their time. That then results in a mouth full of metal to correct that. 2 years of metal - orthodontia has come such a long way but still. I went through orthodontics as an adult so I UNDERSTAND, trust me. As if it couldn't get any worse then come the wisdom teeth. Without regular dental care; cleanings, x-rays, sealants and fluoride - all preventative items - we are putting our kids at risk of making dentistry a horrible, dreaded thing.

I am not out to make braces or getting your wisdom teeth pulled a terrible thing, it really isn't. Ever heard the saying "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?" That is the bottom line; Baby teeth, are they really THAT important???? Yes.

What is periodontal disease?

A lot of patients seem shocked when Teresa or Kara has to deliver the news that maybe their dental hygiene hasn't been the best over the year and as a result of that the patient has developed periodontal disease. In truth, periodontal disease is not uncommon. What is periodontal disease? We old-timers used to refer to it as gingivitis. While gingivitis is an early indicator of periodontal disease, it is in fact periodontal disease. How many of us have gums that bleed when we floss or brush, tender gums, a change in our bite or teeth that seems subtle enough to ignore until it is too late. The mouth is filled with bacteria, countless bacteria. Plaque will build up in your mouth and on your teeth and left untreated can rapidly produce toxins and enzymes that cause inflammation and irritation to your gums. This will in turn cause damage to the healthy tissue and bone that supports your tooth.

There are many determining factors you can detect to see if you may have beginning or even advanced stages of periodontal disease. Ask yourself these simple questions.

  1. Do I smoke or chew tobacco?
  2. Do I have a systemic disease, such as diabetes?
  3. Am I on any steroids, cancer therapy drugs or blood pressure medication?
  4. Am I pregnant or on hormones?
  5. Are my gums red, swollen, tender and bleeding?

Believe it or not, these are ALL contributing factors to periodontal disease - not just lack of brushing for 2 minutes twice per day and flossing regularly. I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep up with your preventative dental care. The result of not properly treating even the mildest form of periodontal disease can be simple as a "deep cleaning" here in the office but can be as extreme as gum grafting surgery (yes, as in skin graft) or tooth loss. I am here to tell you this because although I know better as a dentist, sometimes it is MOST difficult for me to get my teeth cleaned. Put it to you this way, it is bad when you have to apologize to your hygienist for all the extra elbow grease she had to put into cleaning your teeth.

It’s a privilege, not a drag to go to the dentist!

It’s a privilege, not a drag to go to the dentist! I am flying back home from a vacation with my wife where we had the opportunity to relax in beautiful Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Believe me when I tell you how truly blessed I feel to have been there. It never ceases to amaze me how comfortable we are made to feel, and how amazingly friendly the people are who take care of us while we were on vacation. I know they get paid to be friendly, but I believe that most of the people who work in vacation resorts are happy to have a steady income and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. It's difficult to imagine the intense poverty just outside the walls of the resorts, but you are surely reminded of it when traveling to and from your vacation destination.

I think that on occasion we should take a moment and count our blessings. Even though most of us do not jump up and down about a chance to visit the dentist, we need to remember that it's a privilege, not a drag to go to the dentist! At the start of my career I had the opportunity to travel to Piura, Peru and perform dentistry on the parishioners of a local catholic church. They waited outside all night just to get a spot in line for me to pull a tooth. The appreciation these people had for me being there was beyond anything I have ever experienced. I went there to give of my time and talents, not expecting anything in return. I ended up receiving so much more than I ever gave, my heart was full.

So the next time you feel the grumblings of "Oh, do I have to go to the dentist?" I would strongly recommend a Caribbean vacation. Peek over the wall of your resort and take a moment to reflect. The privileges we have are extraordinary, no matter how little they seem.

Parenting VS. Dentistry

Parenting VS. Dentistry

Parenting VS. Dentistry…

There is never a dull moment

when you have children.

Feel free to borrow any of my three kids if you need to test this theory yourself. There is rarely a dull moment when you are a dentist as well, believe it or not. There is a real struggle in Parenting Vs. Dentistry some days.

Real crying came wafting in from the backyard. I say “real crying” because as a parent you get to know the difference between real and….well, let’s just say exaggerated. Libby, my sweet angel of a daughter decided to shoot the fort with a bb gun. (That’s right, I let my kids play unsupervised in the backyard with a bb gun, and you can whip me later for that). As most of us adults know, bb’s have a way of shooting your eye out. Thank goodness Libby was crying out of two perfectly good eyes. The bad news was Libby would not open her mouth which was on lock down by both of her hands. After sufficient comforting, and suppression of building anger, I was able to witness the results of the misguided bb. Her front tooth was broken in half. Well, S#&%! Call the dentist! Wait…that’s me, I have to fix this! We promptly rushed to the office to get started on fixing her teeth.

Libby survived, but that’s not the end of the story.

Now, as a dentist, there were about a million things running through my mind. Of course I chose not to share this with my terrified daughter, who was acutely aware of needles. Through my mind was racing all of the things that I normally tell parents when they come in with a child who has injured a tooth. Watch for swelling, let me know if the child experiences any discomfort in the gums above the tooth, let us know if the tooth starts to turn gray. All of these are indications that the tooth I started to die and or has become infected. Well, I got Libby fixed up with a tooth colored filling, which I thought looked pretty darn good. Libby went back to school and resumed normal lifestyle of a bubbly young lady. About a year and a half later the phone call came. Libby was at school and her tooth started to hurt, not just hurt but really, really hurt. Libby was brought up to my office, where I lifted her upper lip and saw that she was smuggling a grape underneath her gums. No father wants to drain an abscess from their daughter but lucky me.

I don't need to go into the gory details of what happened next, or exactly how loud Libby vocalized her displeasure with the entire situation. There are days when even the best dentist just wants to be a parent - and believe me - I would have gladly turned in my dentist hat on that day. I am pleased to tell you all that Libby and I have both survived the ordeal with minimal emotional scarring. In the battle of Parenting VS. Dentistry, on that day – parenting won.